Grand Central’s landlord is famously publicity-shy

January 30, 2013 10:00AM

At Grand Central Terminal’s centennial celebrations on Friday night, a notable absence was Andrew Penson, the terminal’s landlord who has remained under the radar despite mammoth investments in New York real estate, the City Room blog of the New York Times reported.

Until Monday, Penson, who is known only to a small cadre of New York real estate insiders, hadn’t even been invited to the dinner. He told the Times that he shies away from the limelight. “I don’t look for publicity,” he said.

Penson grew up on the East Side of Manhattan, the son of an entrepreneur who specialized in converting rental apartments to co-ops. After a stint at the law firm of Jones Day, he began building his real estate empire by buying the debt on distressed properties. Midtown Trackage Ventures, the company through which he owns Grand Central, is affiliated Penson’s Argent Ventures, which has struck many iconic deals — including a previous stake in the Chrysler Building and a current one in Hollywood’s Capitol Records Tower — in the course of building its $2.5 billion portfolio. At one point, Argent’s portfolio included over 1,000 New York City apartments.

Penson’s Midtown Trackage, along with two unnamed institutional investors, acquired the land under Grand Central and a stretch of railroad in 2006 for roughly $80 million, and collects $2.2 million in annual rent from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The deal for Grand Central included about 1.3 million square feet of air rights, which in light of the proposed Midtown East rezoning, could prove extremely lucrative for Penson. [NYT]  – Hiten Samtani